10/28/2002 12:00AM

Baze joins elite 8,000 club

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SAN MATEO, Calif. - Russell Baze on Saturday became the fourth jockey in history to record 8,000 victories, reaching the milestone with a wire-to-wire ride aboard Ourwhistlebritches in the eighth race at Bay Meadows.

Baze joins Laffit Pincay Jr., Bill Shoemaker, and Pat Day in the exclusive club.

"It feels fantastic," Baze said of reaching the milestone.

The win also was timely.

"It was really important to do it today," said Baze, who was joined in the winner's circle by his wife, Tami, daughters, Trinity, Brandi, and Cassie, and son, Gable. "A couple of my girls are going back to college tomorrow."

Baze returned on Sunday to win two more races, including the featured Golden Poppy Handicap.

Bay Meadows presented Baze with an off-road motorcycle to commemorate the victory, prompting a wide grin. "How cool is that?" he said when he got off the motorcycle, which he rode back to the jockeys' room after riding the length of the grandstand to the applause of fans.

"I'd like to thank Bay Meadows. This is a great gift," Baze said at the presentation ceremony, during which he thanked fans for their support and owners and trainers for "putting me on horses."

"I've had a wonderful ride up until now, and I've got a couple years left in me," he told fans.

"It's incredible just to be around a guy like Russell Baze," said William E. Morey, the trainer of Ourwhistlebritches. "To have him ride for you and win for you is a treat. There are none greater in my eyes."

Baze won number 7,999 aboard Viva's Pride in Saturday's sixth race and had three other mounts on the day.

Entering the stretch Ourwhistlebritches ducked out a couple of steps to the right. Baze straightened her out and was never truly challenged to the wire.

Following the race Baze was presented with a poster proclaiming his 8,000th victory as Bay Meadows showed a highlight film of his career.

Looking at the poster in the jockeys' room, Baze said, "Not too many guys have one of these."